Stories of Girls’ Resistance
Janece, Barbados


“…girls and women taking more of their power back – how it’s shaping countries to more peaceful resolutions, more productivity. Now I know that okay, Barbados might be this small, but if I can make these little changes eventually the big change is going to come.”

Janece's Story

By Ashlee Cox
She is determined to bring about change in her world. Her childhood gives her the experience to make a real difference.

Janece is a caring, fun-loving and outgoing young lady who works as a general assistant within the Non Government Organisation, (NGO) I Am A Girl Barbados. There she works to inspire, educate and empower the lives of girls who range in ages of 5 to 18 years.

Janece was 14 herself when she joined the I Am A Girl Barbados Chapter, a decision that changed the course of her life and lead her to becoming the inspiring young activist she is today.

She joined through the NGO’s first retreat and has since worked her way up the ladder from being a mentee, peer leader, intern, junior counselor, and now -at the age of 19- to general assistant.

Life for Janece has not been easy and she revealed that the NGO helped her to not understand what she was going through had not been healthy, but also gave her the information and tools to create a much healthier lifestyle.

Janece, in a phone interview with the Girls’ Narrative Project, recounted that the death of her grandmother triggered a serious change in the dynamic of her home life at the age of 10, as suddenly there was less money in the household and her mother started to disconnect from her three children, of which Janece is the second, between an elder sister and a younger step-brother.

This disconnection impacted Janece both at home and at school, as her mother battled her own challenges of drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution and abusive relationships.

“I felt my mother loved us but just did not want to be around us. My mother just had children at home, but she didn’t have her children at home,” she told the Girls’ Narrative Project.

Continuing, the Barbadian national noted, “She would still be out partying and whatnot and I would have something at school that she could go to – like my teachers would want to talk to her and she’d refuse. There was help that I needed at school that my teachers needed my mother’s permission for, but because she never went I never got to get that particular type of help.”

She also revealed that her relationship with her elder sister began to suffer around the time she was in Secondary school, which only compounded the stress for her as she felt she was being bullied at home and at school.

The concept of girlhood is one that comes up often during the interview and Janece admited that she resisted the aesthetic of what being a girl meant during her time at school. A resistance that got her further bullied.

She explained that she tried to conform more to the standard, which meant less studying, more attention to defying the school’s dress code and less running around with her male friends because girls should be prim and pretty and sweat had no place there. 

This ‘conformity’ disappointed her teachers, made her friends uncomfortable and she found herself constantly in more trouble, rather than just enjoying her life.

Another instance in which she explained how that particular conformity backfired on her was when she found herself in a relationship with a man who was at least 13 years her senior. She explained it was considered ‘cool’ to have an older boyfriend, however while her relationship started out sweet, it soon quickly soured and she found herself in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship.

She had a lot of male friends who cared about her and one of those friends at the time was distrustful of the relationship with this man and would call to ensure she was safe, she said. This care was interpreted by her then older boyfriend as a sign of her cheating on him and he became more possessive of her.

“So here goes a very sweet relationship into this predator and victim [dynamic], because it turned into a situation of abuse and control, to the point where if I did not message him or until he could say for me to stop messaging him when I’m at home, he would get upset and threatened to post videos and pictures of me that he was taking as revenge porn,” she confided. 

“Using that sheer fear to keep me in check and the whole time I should have been taking to study, I had to spend on him, to make sure that he was comfortable, and he felt secure in my love and commitment to him,” she continued.

From this experience that also resulted in an underage miscarriage and being physically abused she realized that other young girls like herself were possibly all going through this, kind of ordeal and feeling as if they could not even talk about what was happening, because no one would believe them. 

“It was to the point where, in my mind I was like, he’s done this before because no one could see bruises on my skin. I was like, I can’t tell anybody because I haven’t got any proof. I ain’t got cuts, I ain’t got a scratch to tell anybody, okay so this is what happened, this is the result.”

Continuing she said, “I felt scared and helpless for the most part of that because even some of the girls I was friends with, now that I’m older, I know that they’ve been going through some of the same things, with dating older man and stuff like that. But were too afraid to talk about it so it continued to when they now have children and are forever connected to that toxic mess. For me at one point I was just like, I’m going to fall apart if I keep doing this.”

Luckily for Janece, she decided to go to the founder of the I Am A Girl Barbados organization and ask for help, this allowed her to get out of that toxic situation the same day. Through the help of the organization, Janece was not only able to go through and deal with her own trauma, but she was also able to help the younger girls who come into the organization as well. 

Reflecting on her past relationship, she said she blamed herself for a while and developed a lively distrust of men, coupled with the belief that others were judging her for what happened, but she used the opportunity to be true to herself.

“For once I realized the honesty of being true to yourself. It felt as though had I continued to be true to myself and not have this need to fit in, I would have been fine. I wouldn’t have gone through this. Almost heartbroken as well too, because I think I fell out of love with myself in my opinion,” she said.

Having survived so much pain and violence in her life, none of this has dampened Janece’s intelligence nor her will to live out her dreams of travelling for work and empowering the girls she meets through the I Am A Girl Barbados organization.

She credits the organization for empowering her and allowing her to see how she could forgive herself, and allowing her to form a new understanding of life through working with the girls.

“It comes from a place of no judgment when I deal with them, because it’s very easy to judge somebody being human, but I think that experience allows me to be more sympathetic and empathize with them when they have situations. It changed me for the better to where to I can now forgive myself for it, and I can also help other girls deal with similar situations and be a walking testament of, this is a bad idea, don’t do it,” she said.

Janece explained she understands the importance of activism and what the right information can really do to change other’s lives and help to heal generational pain. She believes now that is it important to have the right information and to spread it so that others and herself can make more informed and better choices in their lives.

Speaking on the issue of sex and sex related health, she said she found that girls tended to be left behind in terms of efficient information and the schools rarely taught in a way that allowed girls to be proud and confident of their bodies or understand their own sexuality, as boys do.

“I found that even in the homes, girls are taught to be more reserved, taught to not really talk about sex. That somehow when we get older we just know what sex is and we just know how everything works. Where boys are encouraged to go out and enjoy themselves and find out what’s happening out there. Learn about sex, try it. But who of these girls are they going to try it with? It cannot be the girls that are told to stay home and keep to themselves and don’t trust anybody,” she said.

She said it is still considered taboo for females to talk about sex related health and this lack of proper knowledge is leading to false information and harm for women.

In light of her own experiences and those she learned of more when she went to the Women Deliver Conference that was held in Canada, the year of this interview, she recalled understanding that the issues facing women were global, and while the individual situations were different, they all boiled down to the same solutions.

“And then coming into the present day, seeing at Women Deliver how people have put aside their differences – having Muslims working with Christians for the betterment of all women because there’s a common goal and a common respect that we are trying to achieve,” she started.

“I really saw the payoff in a sense for what this can mean. Seeing how – from girls and women taking more of their power back – how it’s shaping countries to more peaceful resolutions, more productivity. Now I know that okay, Barbados might be this small, but if I can make these little changes eventually the big change is going to come,” she stated.

It is Janece’s belief that she will see a positive change in the way women are treated and how they think of themselves in her lifetime but to do that, she stated that her own country, Barbados needed to become more aware of the challenges and allow actual equality between the sexes.

She explained that the kind of world she is trying to build is one where girls are informed, have the tools to start their own resistance, and who understand what healthy bodies and healthy interactions mean. Where women have the power to decide how they are going to progress and are afforded the same opportunities.

Janece spoke on her hope for the future, noting, “That no longer will females conform and fit into the roles that they were given. No longer will girls be strangled into thinking that they need to be a certain way to be a girl”.

Artist Description

This image of Aisha was created by Elizabeth Barrera, who explains their thoughts behind the illustration: Janece was bullied in school and at home. To escape she used a reading app called Wattpad. I wanted to represent her having books in her hair as her safe place.